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Kauto Star off to do dressage

Kauto Star has featured on the *header photo of this blog for a long while now, along with his regular rider Ruby Walsh. It therefore seems right to note that today was the day he left his longtime home of Ditcheat, with trainer Paul Nicholls and the man who has ‘done’ the Star for all these years, Clifford Baker.

The Twittersphere is all aflutter with the news: the manner in which the departure came about, the new career for the amazing horse we have loved for so long. It seems that the owner, Clive Smith and the trainer had some sort of difference of opinion and the planned departure to pastures new was brought forward to today. Apparently Clifford Baker’s daughter didn’t even get to say goodbye to King Kauto.

I suppose it’s a mini PR disaster for racing. Kauto Star has been the jewel in the crown of winter National Hunt racing for years. That the owner and the trainer should ‘fall out’ over the rest of his career is a shame. That career is nominally in dressage. They aren’t mucking around either, Kauto is going to be ridden by an Olympic hopeful rider and retrained by the great Yogi Breisner. Clive Smith says Kauto is ‘too good’ to be a hack, but what an earth does that mean? I would have been more on his wavelength if he said, ‘look the horse is only twelve and he needs to be kept busy – he’s that kind of horse.’ To me, it looks like an old guy giving a pretty young lady a lovely present, but I am old and unkind perhaps. Back on a more empirical footing, good dressage horses tend to be warmbloods, not thoroughbreds, the latter being too hot-blooded for the manege. I admit I am kind of hoping Kauto Star puts them all in their place, politely, over the next few months.

Running and jumping is the the boy for me he might say, if he could talk… Now, where’s my old neighbour Denman?

Denman out with some mates and new rider Charlotte Alexander from Horse & Hound

Click here for more of Denman’s Diary and a life after racing.

And here to see Kauto Star in his new home as of today. Good luck lad.

*I’ve been wondering if it’s time to change this for a while now, but I don’t think I’m ready yet.

Denman retired: December 2011

Denman’s career was total quality from start to finish. I was thrilled when he won the Gold Cup, but I believe that race left its mark and after his subsequent tumble at Aintree couldn’t watch him live anymore. I have a friend who hid in the ladies at Newbury to listen to the live commentary when he was going for another Hennessy. He is just that kind of a horse.

Thank you for yourself Denman.

Jumping for fun: minus McCoy

Kauto Star & Denman

Tank mode with Ruby up

The Hennessy

I was asked if I fancied going to watch this today at Newbury. I gave it some thought. Then I remembered that as much as I like Newbury, I do not very much like the cold, or the jumps. I do like Denman and he goes for an historic treble today, but since he had a fall at Aintree and that heart procedure I’ve not been able to watch him. Putting all that into the basket and throwing in a round trip of about 300 miles in the Tin Can from Japan decided me against. If Denman does manage to win I’ll be the first to pour myself a treble of the damn stuff and toast him.

I haven’t got a view of the race to be truthful, although the thought that The Tank will have to lug a minimum of 1 stone and 4 pounds more than his nearest weighted rival makes me shudder (and it will be just 2 pounds shy of two stone to most of the field). Instead I can only repeat what most people may have heard already: there have been strong whispers coming into the race for the Irish horse Pandorama and that some good judges have mentioned that Madison du Berlais may be a rather generously priced 16/1. All home safe and not too knackered is all I ask for.

In the meantime I’d rather look at this fantastic picture of the flat racing darling Selkirk in the snow, which the delightful Clare Balding kindly allowed me to use. Selkirk was trained by her father Ian and raced for George Strawbridge in a career that enjoyed wins in the Lockinge Stakes at the selfsame Newbury, the Celebration Mile at Goodwood and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot.

Selkirk stands at Lanwades Stud in Newmarket, the fee for his services in 2011 is £20,000. He has sired 81 Group/Stakes winners including 12 Group 1 winners. So if it’s a group-winning flashy chestnut with some white markings you’re after producing you could do an awful lot worse…

Selkirk courtesy of Clare Balding's Twitpics

Guinness Gold Cup – Punchestown

Some days I can’t keep up.

I knew the Punchestown Festival was on, but for some reason I thought the Gold Cup was later in proceedings. I spied Denman on the front of today’s RP at the garage at about 4 this afternoon. Yikes, I thought, I want to back Joncol. I bought the paper rushed home and checked the non-runners.

Joncol was reported as having been taken out on account of the ground just before 4 today. So not only was I chasing my tail, I am now chasing the full story.

In a way it makes things easier, because I want to switch off from fences entirely. But Denman still goes, despite the fact he and Joncol look to be cut from similar vast swathes of cloth. The difference is in years. Joncol has more to come I am sure and Paul Nolan might be jeopardising next season for this late season goal. It takes balls to take the horse out and I am sure he has done the right thing. It is probably a mark of how high his hopes are for this horse (for my own reckoning has him bang there in next year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup). Denman on the other hand is being asked another question on going faster than I like the sound of. I hope he wins, but I won’t be watching. For a bit of each-way interest I might take a price about Planet of Sound. It’s only a feeling and the other I want to see popping round for fun is War of Attrition so he can retire on a high.

Paul Nolan taking a longer view

Eye on the Prize

This is funny old Cheltenham what with all the turn ups for the books (and now we need never wonder where that saying came from). I think I have though finally achieved notgettingsuckedintoallthehype and have ended up unbroke. It’s not what I thought it would be though. I imagined I’d feel more, well, smug. Thank god I don’t. I just feel like I am gagging for some flatter than flat racing for me togetsuckedintoallthehype. Leopards never change their spots.

That being the case it seems likely that Kauto will win tomorrow and I must admit that I will watch the spectacle without financial investment. Not because I don’t care, but because I don’t like to see Denman get beaten, not even by his neighbour. One must expect that the ground is going to be too lively for the Tank’s comfort and ease tomorrow, and that’s a shame. Today I saw an old man getting on a bus. He was a big unit, not fat, but tall and well-boned. As he got up from the bus-stop bench he reminded me of how Denman might be after galloping on good ground for over three miles. Not a pleasant thought to be honest. Maybe I am just a crazy lady comparing random bus passengers to racehorses, but that’s what I do.

As I’m being honest, I have to confess that I am not even so concerned with tomorrow’s historic clash as I am with how Cooldine will run in the same race.
I am desperate for him to run well and boost my fantasy of Joncol winning the Gold Cup in the next couple of years. I even tried to find a market tonight for next year but I have failed so far…

I’ll just keep trying.

Hello darling, I'd like to place a bet on the 2012 Gold Cup.

Blinkers for Denman?

What?

Blinkers for Denman

Pardon?

BLINKERS for Denman

Wozzit?

BLINKERS FOR DENMAN!

No sorry I can’t hear you.

Denman, the Aon and the room with no view

I was born in Newbury, at least that’s what it says on my passport. My mother says it was Thatcham which is now a sprawling sink housing estate as far as I can see. Any road up, I am predisposed to like the place and when I’ve been racing there I’ve done alright. If I was there today I might be joining my friend Tagalie and “watching” the Aon Chase from the toilets.

This is the bind of being not just a punter, but a horse enthusiast, or pony-mad middle-aged woman (in my case, NOT hers!) in that when a horse you really, really like runs your stomach goes. Well not literally, but nearly! So last November she was so concerned as Denman made his post-fall comeback she hid in the loos, where I believe there is commentary. When we discussed tomorrow (last week) it went a bit like this:

“There doesn’t seem much point paying to go racing and then staying in the loos for the big race”

“Hmmm. No”

“But then it is obviously lucky for The Tank, so now I will have to go and watch it in the ladies again”

Such is the burden of the real racing fan. Rituals and routines.

With the faithful doing their bit the only discernible difference today for The Tank is that we have one AP McCoy on board. This is what Ruby Walsh had to say for his benefit about Denman this morning; one presumes the unfortunate Sam Thomas will remain tight-lipped.

From the RP site:

Walsh, speaking on Channel 4’s The Morning Line, said: “Denman is in a better frame of mind than when he ran here in November. He is fresh and keen.”

The jockey added:”As far as the jumping goes he is bombproof. He is dead straightforward to ride; have him in the first two, then if he’s pulling you’re going too slow, and if you’re pushing you are going to fast.”

So with Ruby’s advice dispensed and Tagalie esconced in the ladies I am touching wood, crossing my fingers, stalking black cats, looking for lost pennies and hoping for a good show.

Plenty of wood for touching purposes

NB Had an outbreak of uncontrollable commaitis this morning. Can’t be helped, no rude remarks from the editing frat please 😉

My 2009

The year of turning 40, seeing a flat horse of a lifetime in Sea The Stars, brilliant jumps horses Kauto Star and Denman – on the comeback trail.

Biggest returns: Supaseus winning the Cambridgeshire
Biggest odds: Ghanaati winning the 1000 Guineas
Nearest miss: Midday in the Oaks
Race of the Year: Sea The Stars’ Arc

Roll on the next one.

Mine’s a Hennessy

Much as I try to ignore this jump racing gear (and succeed for the most part during the week) the magnetic effect of the graded contests and the stars that participate would make a nonsense of my blog’s title if I didn’t even mention them.   During the flat season I can write a preview at the 48 hour declaration stage, providing the weather outlook is fair, with the jumps I have to mug up on the morning.

For once Thommo had something enlightened to say on the Morning Line, re Denman:

“We all know he can carry the weight, but can he give it away?”

Well put.  If I may borrow from Heaven 17’s Look of Love lyric for a moment:

“I don’t know the answer to that question.  If I knew I would tell you…”

Well I would.  What I do know is that everyone says Denman is well.  What I know as well is that he is the class act in the field.  What we know too is that he has not quite re-scaled the heights of the season before last since his heart procedure and that he was not foot perfect when we last saw him at Aintree, which is why his price was around 9/2 this morning. 

Barber’s Shop is probably the improving horse to watch for, but I don’t know enough about him to comment so I won’t.  I also know that Gone To Lunch comes top in the Timeform weight adjusted ratings and should come home well.  I would like Denman to win, but the fact of the matter is that he is giving away absolute lumps of lead to quality horses.  For example, State of Play (who was the subject of a midweek gamble from 33s into 16s) who is a former Hennessy winner himself is getting 2lbs shy of 2 stone from the Tank.  Even if the weight doesn’t stop Denman winning, it gives some other good horses a good chance of getting nearer him.

Frankly I don’t know what to do!  My shortlist consists of Denman, Barber’s Shop, Gone to Lunch and State of Play.  State of Play and I go back the furthest and the money and featherweight he carries is encouraging, but I am not keen on backing against Denman.  Maybe it is two bets – win and each way.   Anyway good luck to all the field. 

N.B. If you are betting each way in the race go to Skybet or VC who are the firms offering 1/4 the price for the first 5.

P.S.  I really like the look of Solwhit in the Fighting Fifth @ Newcastle and that was before Barry Dennis made Binocular his Bismarck!